Closer Than Ever is a two-act musical Theatrical Production on an intimate scale of songs by lyricist Richard Maltby, Jr. and composer David Shire (who also wrote a few of the lyrics himself). It opened Off-Broadway in November 1989 after taking shape over the summer of that year at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.
The songs, including six that appeared previously in the 1987 revue Urban Blight, a few Cut Songs from Baby (Maltby & Shire's only Broadway musical) and songs written for other projects decades earlier, are described by the authors as "short stories." They have no narrative links to each other (aside from the few coupled as medleys), but are united around themes of self-discovery, unraveling relationships, middle age and urban living. They are performed mostly by a cast of two men and two women, though the pianist and bassist both have moments to prove themselves as more than mere accompanists.
Closer Than Ever contains examples of:
- Friendship Song: "Three Friends," about the often troubled but enduring friendship of three women over the years. The song, whose lyrics are abundant in threefold rhymes, is performed at a fast vaudeville step by a close-harmony ensemble including one man (not in drag), since the cast only includes two women.
- Naughty by Night: "Miss Byrd" is about a secretary exulting in how no one who sees her would think that she's anything but "that dull Miss Byrd," yet she has secret trysts with her superintendent.
- Open-Door Opening: The show plays with this trope by beginning with a song about what doors symbolize.
- Scatting: "Miss Byrd" and "Back on Base" both have jazzy codas which the singer (originally Sally Mayes) is encouraged to improvise in her own style.
- Swivel-Chair Antics: "Miss Byrd" is supposed to be performed, "including any 'dancing'" (the stage directions specify), entirely on a typist's swivel chair at an ordinary real-estate office desk.